In general, the Civil Division of the County Attorney's Office gives legal opinions and advice to the Carver County Board and any other county officer or official concerning all matters in which the County is or may be interested, or in relation to the official duties of the Board.
County Administration and Carver County Board of Commissioners: As the legal advisor for the county, the county attorney serves in a role that is similar to that of an in-house corporate counsel. The Carver County Attorney or his designee thoroughly reviews the County Board agenda and attends all board meetings. Because the Carver County Commissioners are themselves elected representatives, the County Attorney cannot direct policy decisions, but rather advises on those policy choices made by the Carver County Board to insure compliance with all legal requirements and avoid potential legal liability.
Litigation: The Civil Division manages or defends lawsuits against the County that are not covered by insurance, such as planning and zoning matters, personnel issues, and real estate tax appeals. Carver County also is a participating member of the Minnesota County Insurance Trust (MCIT). As a public entity, MCIT pools its resources from numerous participating counties and provides additional comprehensive liability coverage, including suits against Carver County for bodily injury caused by negligence of county employees.
Carver County Public Health: The Civil Division assists the Public Health Department in the enforcement of public health statutes and ordinances. These matters involve restaurants, swimming pools, mobile home parks, motels, septic system violations, and sales of tobacco to minors by retailers. The Carver County Attorney's Office also works closely with the Carver County Land and Water Department to pursue hazardous waste violations.
Carver County Public Works: The Civil Division provides counsel to the County Public Works Department when legal issues arise over the purchase of property, county road right of ways, eminent domain, bridges, dams, waste management facilities, parks and other public infrastructure. In part, the Civil Division provides legal advice that involves the drafting, adoption, and enforcement of the land development ordinances. The Civil Division attorneys attend public meetings and hearings of the Planning Advisory Commission and the Board of Adjustment and Appeals.
Property Records and Licensing: The Civil Division furnishes legal counsel to the Property Records and Licensing Department when issues arise concerning the recording of documents, liquor licensing, vital records, and elections. This also includes appeals regarding real estate taxes. Each year property tax owners in Carver County file petitions for reclassification, exemption or reduced assessed values. Most of these cases are settled. However, some cases may require a trial before the Minnesota Tax Court. These cases may include a residential homestead (whether the property owner qualifies for homestead status) or may challenge the assessed value of their home. They also include challenges to the appraisal of commercial properties in the County.
Carver County Health and Human Services: The Civil Division advises the Health and Human Services Department on matters involving adult protection, mental health, guardianships and conservatorships, and administration of various types of public assistance, including civil commitment matters involving persons who are mentally ill, chemically dependent; developmentally disabled, mentally ill and dangerous; sexually dangerous or persons defined as a sexually psychopathic personality. In addition, the Civil Division provides representation on administrative licensing suspension or revocation appeals, as for example, daycare providers; and appeals of those substantiated as having maltreated a vulnerable adult or a child.
Child Support and Paternity: Carver County's proactive child support program benefits children by enforcing parental responsibility for their support. The Carver County Attorney's Office does not represent either parent in child support court actions but rather acts in the best interests of the child according to child support statutes and guidelines. Legal actions to establish paternity or enforce child support orders may be brought regardless of whether public assistance is provided.
Carver County Sheriff’s Office: The Civil Division also provides legal counsel to the Carver County Sheriff's Department, including the Carver County Jail, concerning their service of process duties as well as to the County Homeland Security Department when emergency management legal issues arise.
Contract Review: The Civil Division prepares or reviews hundreds of contracts and agreements annually between the County and contractors, service providers, vendors or other governmental agencies doing business with the County. Civil Division attorneys also review and help prepare bid specifications for many County purchases and projects.
Minnesota Government Data Practices Act: The Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA) is an evolving statute that attempts to strike a balance between the dual public policy goals of government transparency and data privacy. The Act regulates all government data collected, created, received, maintained, disseminated, or stored by public government entities irrespective of the data’s physical form, storage, media, or conditions of use. The Carver County Attorney's Office provides legal advice and training to all county departments concerning the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act to ensure legal compliance. Further, as the statutorily mandated "designated authority," the Carver County Attorney's Office is responsible for providing members of the public a means to request data and ensure that public data is disclosed in a timely fashion. Further information on how to request data is found on the Carver County website.
The Criminal Division of the Carver County Attorney's Office prosecutes adults across the spectrum ranging from felonies, gross misdemeanors, misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors. Except for the City of Chanhassen, the Carver County Attorney's Office contracts with all other Carver County cities to prosecute municipal crimes. In addition, the Carver County Attorney's Office prosecutes most township ordinances without charge.
Classification of crime levels are as follows:
- Petty Misdemeanors – punishable by up to a $300 fine.
- Misdemeanors – punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail.
- Gross Misdemeanors – punishable by up to a $3,000 fine and one year in jail.
- Felonies – punishable by more than one year in prison.
As a prosecutorial agency, this office does not investigate crimes and largely depends on the investigative services provided by the Carver County Sheriff's Office and the Chaska Police Department. Occasionally, this office works with other law enforcement agencies as well, including the Minnesota State Patrol, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and the Three Rivers Park District.
This office also works in unison with the United States Attorney's Office. When certain crimes might be prosecuted by either office, the two jurisdictions work cooperatively to leverage the most serious consequences for violent offenders.
Including County Attorney Metz and his management staff, this office has eight prosecutors who litigate criminal trials. In the event a defendant appeals a conviction, the Carver County Attorney's Office also prepares appellate briefs and present oral arguments to both the Minnesota Court of Appeals and, on occasion, the Minnesota Supreme Court.
On more minor crimes, such as petty traffic and other misdemeanor violations, law enforcement generally issues a citation to initiate the criminal process. On matters that involve gross misdemeanors or felonies, only a prosecutor can initiate charges by issuing a formal complaint based upon an investigation conducted by a law enforcement agency.
The Carver County Attorney’s Office also contracts with ten of eleven cities (not Chanhassen) to prosecute petty misdemeanors, misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors for those ten cities. Thus, the County Attorney’s Office prosecutes all crimes for ten of eleven cities in Carver County.
Every charged defendant has the right to legal counsel. Under certain circumstances, the district court may appoint a public defender to represent a defendant. Conversely, prosecutors do not represent individuals in court and cannot provide legal advice to individual citizens. Prosecutors cannot take reports of a crime from individuals because the Carver County Attorney's Office has no authority to investigate crimes.
Juvenile Delinquency: The Carver County Juvenile Division attorneys prosecute children younger than 18 years old for offenses they have committed within Carver County. This includes offenses ranging from petty offenses such as curfew violations to serious felony matters including murder. In addition to public safety concerns, the juvenile prosecutor must consider the particular needs of the juvenile. The primary aim of juvenile prosecution is to rehabilitate the child through careful programming to maximize the chances the child can become a productive, law-abiding adult. On the other hand, in some cases, the juvenile prosecutor may file a motion to certify a child to stand trial as an adult or file a motion to designate the child an Extended Jurisdiction Juvenile (EJJ). In all of these juvenile prosecutions, the Carver County Attorney's Office takes into consideration the child's age, prior offense, and programming history.
Children in Need of Protective Services (CHIPS): The Carver County Attorney's Office also represents Carver County Health and Human Services in bringing actions to protect abused or neglected children. Physical abuse includes a non-accidental physical injury caused by a parent or other caregiver. Physical abuse also includes threatened injury that includes a statement, action, condition or status that represents a substantial risk of injury. Sexual abuse includes sexual touching of private parts of a child by a parent or caregiver, or having a child touch the private parts of the parent or caregiver. Sexual abuse also includes threatened sexual abuse.
Child neglect includes several categories such as failing to provide for the basic needs of a child when able to do so, failing to educate a child, chronic and severe use of drugs or alcohol by a parent or caregiver, or failing to provide necessary supervision consistent with the age and cognitive development of the child. When necessary, some children may be placed in foster care in order to be sure all needs of the child are met.
In extreme cases, and where all prior exhaustive efforts have still proved futile, the Carver County Attorney's Office may file a petition to terminate the legal rights of the parents in having physical custody of their child or children.
Becoming a victim of crime is always unwelcome, unsettling and stressful. Our experienced staff will meaningfully help every crime victim navigate the criminal justice system. Our Carver County Victim/Witness informs victims in a timely manner and seeks victim input for both possible plea negotiation and sentencing. The Carver County Victim/Witness Program also assists witnesses prepare for court.
Beyond the courtroom, our staff works directly with victims to reduce the impact of the crime. Staff will work towards assisting crime victims in rebuilding their lives through timely support, information, and referrals.
Our staff can provide emergency assistance in the immediate aftermath of the crime, and provide on-going support to ease the process of participation in the criminal justice system, including the Safe-at-Home program that provides long-term anonymity for victims concerned with stalking or other harassing behaviors.
The Carver County Victim/Witness Program has three staff members that are available, at differing levels, to provide crisis intervention services, emergency resources, support counseling, referrals, and support during a criminal proceeding, assistance with compensation claims, and other services as required by individual circumstances. Our victim witness staff works closely with our prosecutors to ensure that victims’ rights are being protected and their voices are being heard.